The Sacrifice of Isaac

Andrea del Sarto (Italian, 1486–1530)c. 1527

The Cleveland Museum of Art

The Cleveland Museum of Art
Cleveland, United States

In this dramatic test of faith from the Old Testament book of Genesis, Abraham agrees to slay his son Isaac on God’s command. As Abraham raises the knife, an angel suddenly appears to halt the sacrifice. This work gains its power from the complex expressions of father and son, combining grief, strength, resignation, fear, and realization in their faces and bodies, the latter inspired by ancient sculpture and Michelangelo. Andrea del Sarto never finished this painting, and it lays bare his working methods. He transferred the design to the panel from a drawing, reinforcing the chalk with painted lines—best seen in the donkey at the far right. He then worked over the whole panel at once with thin, brushy veils of color, letting him alter the composition while painting—especially evident in the angel, Isaac’s body, and Abraham’s head.

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  • Title: The Sacrifice of Isaac
  • Creator: Andrea del Sarto (Italian, 1486–1530)
  • Date Created: c. 1527
  • Physical Dimensions: Framed: 208 x 171 x 12.5 cm (81 7/8 x 67 5/16 x 4 15/16 in.); Unframed: 178 x 138 cm (70 1/16 x 54 5/16 in.)
  • Provenance: Cardinal Carlo de' Medici, Florence, Possibly the Montalvi Collection, Florence, Possibly the Peruzzi Collection, Florence, Zondadari Collection, Florence, William Cave, died 1858 (Brentry House, near Bristol, bought in Florence in 1846), by inheritance to his wife., Mrs. William Cave, Sold, Christie's, London, June 22, 1858, lot 102, Possibly Peters, George Cornwall Legh, High Legh, Co. Chester, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Cornwall Legh, High Legh, Co. Chester, Sold at Sotheby's, London, May 21, 1935, to Spencer Samuels, Spencer Samuels, T. Harris, London, and Durlacher Brothers, New York, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: CC0
  • External Link: https://clevelandart.org/art/1937.577
  • Medium: oil on wood
  • Fun Fact: The angel has two visible sets of legs, showing the artist’s revision of the composition.
  • Department: European Painting and Sculpture
  • Culture: Italy, Florence, 16th century
  • Credit Line: Delia E. Holden and L. E. Holden Funds
  • Collection: P - Italian 16th & 17th Century
  • Accession Number: 1937.577

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